Q&A with International Agriculture Certificate Student: Chris Reynolds
Chris Reynolds, a fourth year agribusiness major studying at the UGA Griffin campus, spent 10 weeks at the Ecole Nationale d’Agriculture de Meknès (l’ENA) in Meknès, Morocco, during summer 2015 fulfilling the internship requirement for the International Agriculture Certificate.
One of your first projects focused on the university’s medicinal botanical garden. Tell us about that.
I did the landscape design for the whole garden, which was maybe 2 acres. We grew rosemary, lavender and chamomile and all these different herbs and medicinal plants. Then we would take them to the lab and extract the essential oils out of them.
Your other project focused on the cultivation and marketing of blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. What did that involve?
It involved touring a lot of farms to find the right region to grow these berries based on the time of year they were going to sell them to the international market. We used data analysis to look at the different trade markets throughout the world and figured out who’s producing blueberries and what time of year they’re producing and who are they exporting to. We looked at the feasibility of growing blueberries in Morocco and then bringing them to the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
Did you get a chance to explore the country?
I got the opportunity to travel all over Morocco. I was working with three faculty members and the unwritten agreement was if anyone goes anywhere—to check on a project or go on vacation, or to visit a family member—take the American guy, Chris, with you. They would take me up to the mountains to visit their families, one time we did this long road trip out to the Sahara Desert. We got to do a tour there and see some experiments they were doing at a date palm plantation.
You have a photo that you describe as the first breakfast you had while in Morocco because of Ramadan, which is a month of fasting observed by Muslims. What was that like?
Normally, you have a big meal at night and then you stop eating or drinking anything after 3 o’clock in the morning and you can’t have anything until 7:30 or 7:45 at night when the sun goes down.
Were you able to bring back any local products?
I have a “jalaba” (local garment) that I bought at one of the old markets in Fez. It’s the most comfortable thing I own. I wear it around the house all the time.
Would you recommend internships in other countries to current students?
If you’re going to be in agriculture, food science or, especially, agribusiness, I absolutely recommend studying abroad. It should actually be a requirement. The potential and the opportunities are much greater outside the United States and the opportunity to contribute and to make a difference is also there. You can take what you’ve learned here and you can apply that to a developing economy.
How did this experience affect your perspectives of the world?
I learned so much about myself living in a Muslim country for 2½ months. It’s a completely different culture than ours. Here, everyone goes out and has a beer after work, whereas there, everyone goes out and has coffee and they sit around and talk until 12 o’clock at night. It was really, really interesting to experience all of that first hand.